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Sunrise swims give rise to body positivity

5/04/2022. By Carmelle Wilkinson. 10 min read.

Sea gals enjoying an early morning swim at South Beach, Fremantle.

It is still dark outside when Tara Jeisman’s (BA Psychology (Hons) 2022) alarm goes off at 5.16am for a sunrise swim.

Following through with a resolution to start her day at the crack of dawn, the Curtin graduate and TikTok creator decides to “go for it” and take a watery plunge at her local beach before the rest of Perth wakes up.

A short 12-minute drive from her home, Tara arrives at a deserted Mullaloo Beach where she removes her birkenstocks and makes her way down to the water’s edge.

The cool sand between her toes is a welcome sensation ahead of a second 40C forecast for that day.

Looking up at the pink sky, Tara’s eyes widened and a feeling of tranquillity and peace wash over her.

Founder of Sea Gals Tara Jeisman enjoying the sunset and the serenity of a solo swim.

“It was absolutely stunning. I actually let out a loud gasp it was just that beautiful,’’ she said.

“I previously thought you needed to travel overseas or down south to experience something so breathtaking, but this was in my own backyard, and I couldn’t stop pinching myself.”

After a refreshing dip, Tara sat on the beach for two hours, soaking in her surrounds.

Tara says she is overwhelmed by the support and interest in Sea Gals.

What began as an opportunity to seize the day and feed her soul has now become a body positive movement, with over 125 girls ranging from early teens to grandmothers, now following her into the surf each week.

Sea Gals has grown to over 125 girls, ranging in age from early teens to grandmothers.

The 23-year-old founder of Sea Gals said she had no idea her initial post would attract over 156,000 views, with thousands of like-minded girls quickly expressing their support and interest.

“A week earlier my best friend posted on her socials about going to the beach before work, and I thought to myself, wow I’ve always wanted to do that,” she said.

“I lost a close friend of mine quite suddenly last year and it made me realise how short life can be, so I decided to step outside my comfort zone and just do it.”

Within a few days of posting the video, Tara’s impromptu visit to the beach had gone viral.

“I had three different Instagram chat groups going with 90 strangers wanting to come with me on my next sunrise swim, it was hilarious,’’ she said.

“In the end only five girls showed up for the second swim, but it was such a great vibe. We spent the next hour chatting about where we were from and our jobs. After the swim I got home, and my Mum asked so how did it go? And I told her I think this is a thing.

“That second swim, before Sea Gals was formed, was the start of something special and I could feel it in the air.”

The popular sunrise swims have been extended to South Beach Fremantle, Sorrento and Coogee, with girls on the east coast also showing interest in starting Sea Gals in their hometowns.

Bridey Eggleton and Zoe Fackerell have joined Tara to run Sea Gals swims across Perth.

“I had no idea this would evolve into what it has become. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the incredible feedback,’’ Tara said.

“I graduated from Curtin in January, and then this happened. Sea Gals has given me purpose and such a great start to the year.”

Tara said the global pandemic had been both socially and physically isolating for so many people and initiatives like Sea Gals were an opportunity to engage in self-care and improve ones mental state.

Sea Gals are fighting the isolation and uncertainty the pandemic has caused.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that our mental and physical health are so important,’’ she said.

“Sea Gals is all about creating a safe space where women can be themselves, make new friends and start their day right.

“Waking up early also allows you to be more productive with your day, and you feel great for it.”

Tara has now started incorporating her psychology degree by kicking off the sessions with mindful moments, where the girls are encouraged to connect with their surrounds and focus on the sounds and smells of the sea.

For the ladies who attend, the early morning swims have become an integral and positive start to their day, with Tara crediting the experience to a greater self-appreciation.

A recap of Sea Gals’ first summer

“I have women from all walks of life tell me about how Sea Gals gave them motivation, following a low point in their mental wellbeing. And to be honest Sea Gals was the turning point I needed to accept my body,’’ she said.

“Like most girls I was always conscious about my body growing up. I’d save clothes in the back of my wardrobe for the day I’d fit into them again and was never entirely comfortable wearing a two-piece bikini.

Tara says the Sea Gals movement has restored her confidence herself and her body.

“Then, while editing the footage from our Sea Gals swims each week, I had such a reality check. And I realised everyone is beautiful no matter their shape or size and I am too. I can thank Sea Gals for giving me my confidence back.”

Tara said Sea Gals was a safe space where girls could be themselves.

“I usually start the session with an acknowledgment to Country, and then I like to put all my insecurities out on the table and say things like ‘I haven’t shaved my legs today, my lips are peeling, and I have acne’, so everyone knows straight away this is a place where they can literally roll out of bed and come down. They won’t be judged,’’ she said.

“If you don’t want to run into the water, you don’t have to. You can walk in or simply sit on the beach and enjoy the sunrise.”

Given the overnight popularity of the swims, Tara has extended the experience to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Curtin Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist Sarah Egan applauded the Sea Gals movement, saying human connection and exercise were great mood boosters.

Curtin Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist Sarah Egan.

“Anything that normalises various body shapes and encourages women to appreciate their bodies is a great thing,’’ she said.

A positive initiative that makes women feel comfortable in their bodies and helps them reconnect with others is so important.”

Sarah said the COVID-19 pandemic had hit our young people hard, with loneliness, isolation and uncertainty contributing to unprecedented cases of depression and anxiety.

She has also seen a spike in eating disorders.

“Our young people are suffering a lot. And even though we are essentially back up and running there is still a great deal of uncertainty out there,’’ she said.

“Stresses associated with academic pressures and body image are known to have a greater impact on young women, and with more adolescents turning to social media to connect with their peers the rise of online influencers on Instagram and Facebook are further blurring teenager’s expectations.”

Sea Gals sunrise swims have become a major positivity movement.

With winter approaching and water temperatures dropping, Tara said she was looking at creative ways to keep the Sea Gals community connected during the cooler months.

“If the weather isn’t suitable, we might run yoga on the beach, but we will definitely keep going to keep the community aspect alive, as seasonal depression is a real thing,’’ she said.

If you would like to join the Sea Gals movement, or to find out more please click here.

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